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  • It’s games like these which win you the league: Killie in April ‘98

    It’s games like these which win you the league: Killie in April ‘98

    By: Joe Donnelly on 08 Apr, 2020 19:01

  • OVER the course of a league title-winning campaign, every victory is important. But, despite the hackneyed cliché featured in this story’s headline, there are always games we recall more fondly with the benefit of hindsight.

    More often than not, these games are hard-fought, well-contested and are determined by slim margins. They're not always as memorable as the derbies and high-scoring triumphs, but they're no less important. A trip to Rugby Park on this day 22 years ago - April 8, 1998 - was one of those games.

    On their quest to 'stop the 10', Wim Jansen’s men entered the final stretch of the 1997/98 campaign neck and neck with their city rivals at the top of league. Despite two 4-0 victories against Kilmarnock at Paradise earlier in the season, the Hoops had been held to a 0-0 stalemate on their last trip to Ayrshire, and, sandwiched between two Glasgow derbies (both of which they lost), Celtic could not afford to take their eye off the ball.

    They didn’t, winning 2-1, with goals in each half from Henrik Larsson and Simon Donnelly. The Swede’s strike came on 19 minutes, and was a signature bullet header, while Donnelly capped off some neat build-up play with a sumptuous chip over ex-Celt Gordon Marshall. To this day, Donnelly considers it one of his best.

    From there, Celtic lost 2-0 at Ibrox the following week, won 4-1 against Motherwell at Celtic Park, drew 0-0 with Hibs at home, then 1-1 with Dunfermline away. On the final game of the season, the would-be champions overcame St Johnstone 2-0 in Glasgow’s East End and, well, the rest is history.

    image

    After the Kilmarnock win, Jansen said: "I am very pleased with the result. I told the players before the game to try to forget the pressure and just go out and play normally. They did so. It was an important result because Kilmarnock is not the easiest place for us to visit. We scored two very good goals which is the way that matches are won.

    "We lost a goal just before half time but we kept playing the same way and we deserved our win. The second goal was excellent because it was a great move involving four or five players.”

    Single games might not win teams the league, but that 2-1 away win at Kilmarnock was crucial in what was a massive season in Celtic’s history.  

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